The Paris air show 2015 saw EVA Airways order 5 new Boeing 777F, a $1.5 billion list price investment towards building its future cargo fleet. The move highlighted the Taiwanese carrier effort towards modernizing its cargo fleet yet consolidating most economically its entire long haul passenger and freight mission on 2 variants of a single 777 type.
Following retirement of its last MD-11 Freighter this past March, the airlines management had indicated its desire to retire its 8 Boeing 747-400F within three years.
In fact March 23rd 2015 saw the last scheduled flight of a MD-11F in the Taiwanese carrier’s color when registration aircraft B-16113 departed Taipei to Anchorage. The same aircraft, the last MD-11F still operating would soonafter arrive at San Bernadino, California for long term storage. Throughout the 21 years that the airline had operated the type, 12 MD-11 have served split duties between freighters (9 aircraft) and passengers (3 aircraft).
Alongside the MD-11F, the remaining portion of the cargo fleet had rested 8 Boeing 747-400F. These included 3 Boeing-built 747-400F dedicated freighters augmented by 5 Bedeck Special Freighter converted from passenger or combi airframes. While the dedicated freighter are generally brand new airframes equipped with Boeing’s factory-built nose cargo door loading system, the conversion variants always re-assign older passenger or combi airframes pulled out of service for a new life as a freighter. The heavily modified jets see their fuselage structurally reinforced, and are fitted with large left-side cargo door on the rear section of the aircraft main deck. The nose door loading system has proven extremely convenient for loading and unloading heavier / outsize cargo.
For EVA Airways Cargo the absence of nose cargo doors on its 6 MD-11F (MD-11 are not designed with a nose loading system) and 5 of 8 Boeing 747-400F aircraft suggested a logistics operations not built to accommodate the outsized loads niche market.
The absence of such a requirement augured well for the prospects of acquiring the highly economical 777F, a Boeing-built freighter variant of the ultra long range 777-200LR; a twin-engines 102 metric tonnes-capable alternative to the tri-jet 92 tonnes-capable MD-11F. Applying the same comparison to the 112 tonnes-capable but four-engined 747-400F tends to shine the 777F in an even more flattering operating economics light. With Eva Airways having already realized the benefits of acquiring 21 Boeing 777-300ER as the ultimate economical replacement for the MD-11 and 747-400 in passenger service, the freighter variant can only make more sense in light of the large experience and support structure already accumulated from the 777-300ER operation.